Call Meat Lightning to John The Sandwich: Taste testing WMSE’s band-themed burgers
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Ordering a burger once constituted a no-thrills enterprise. The three key toppings—lettuce, tomato, and onion—were the only additional ingredients deemed necessary. And perhaps some cheddar cheese, if you were willing to plop down an extra dollar. But nowadays, just the cheese laid atop the beef patty—or if you’re hoity-toity, stuffed inside—receives endless contemplation and adulation. We’ve come a long ways from the classic recipe.
In what’s easily becoming WMSE 91.7’s most mouth-watering tradition, the local college radio purveyor commissions local restaurants to hock specialty burgers leading up to its annual fundraiser and belly-engorging Food Slam (Sept. 13 at the Grohmann Museum). The sale, which nets the station $2 per burger sold, has expanded to its fattest offering this year. Three restaurants—Comet Café, Honeypie, and Palomino—each sell different gourmet beef and vegetarian options. Even better: Each burger is a pun on a local band’s moniker—just try keeping a straight face while ordering the Collections Of Colonies Of Beef.
We stood up to the six-burger challenge and filled our stomach with each bad boy. Read our thoughts below, along with some suggestions on how to soundtrack your own experience.
Call Meat Lightning (Honeypie)
Cooking burger patties is often a quick, mindless process. Season them, place those fuckers on the grill, and flip once. That’s it. Making chili, on the other hand, takes some time. Hell, just figuring out the right ingredients can be a never-ending quest. What’s interesting about the Call Meat Lightning is that it juxtaposes that rapid-paced burger searing with the methodical chili slow-cook. But what’s great about it is that the presentation isn’t so high-minded. The chili is plopped atop the burger patty with some fried cheese that gets lost within the beef. It’s simple comfort food, and satisfyingly plays out that role.
Pairs well with: “Hungry Liar” by Call Me Lightning
Compound Red Meat (Palomino)
The problem with some specialty burgers is that all the delicious ingredients stacked on top don’t compliment each other. The Compound Red Meat has some wonderful toppings: nice, thick, crispy pieces of bacon; a poblano relish; and a beer vinegar aoili. And, come on, it comes with fried green tomatoes, which somehow isn’t a staple on every menu. Unfortunately, the whole did not equal the sum of its parts. We’d either get a big bite of the bacon or chow down a piece of the fried green tomato, each overpowering anything else. The overcooked beef patty didn’t help things, either.
Pairs well with: “Twenty Miles Up” by Compound Red
Collections Of Colonies Of Beef (Comet)
Because one level never quite satisfies, this selection stacks up three of them. Yup, thick bacon slices lay atop two mixed chorizo and beef patties. The first bite dripped those greasy chorizo juices and delivered a bit of a kick. The ancho ranch sauce, mild cheddar cheese, and chimichurri gave the sense that we weren’t eating only a massive mound of meat, while also adequately cooling things down. The grease pool remaining on the plate post-feast wasn’t as deep as you’d expect, but just enough to lather the fries a tad. Most importantly, the Collections Of Colonies Of Beef accomplished the rare task of being a big, succulent burger that kept its bun relatively dry.
Pairs well with: “Vorm” by Collections Of Colonies Of Bees
Chickpea Flambeau (Honeypie)
Many veggie burgers make the mistake of attempting to re-create the beef burger experience. It’s so rarely accomplished, and even when done right you can’t help but think how the cow-ier counterpart compares. The more ambitious veggie burgers don’t taste like burgers at all, lying somewhere in between the ambiguous line of burger and sandwich. The Chickpea Flambeau is one of those offerings that toes the line. The falafel patty gave a good crunch and the tabouli salad and lemon tahini dressing add some nice flavor. It isn’t really a burger, but it isn’t really supposed to be.
Pairs well with: “Helvetica” by Couch Flambeau
Def Farmonic (Comet)
Out of all these decadent WMSE burgers, the one with the longest list of ingredients goes to the Def Farmonic. It features roasted summer squashes, red pepper, onion, carrots, chickpeas, cornmeal, tomatoes, smoke paprika, feta, sherry aioli, and some lettuce. However, despite the grocery-list-length combination, this selection tastes surprising light and refreshing.
Pairs well with: “Riddled” by Def Harmonic
John The Sandwich (Palomino)
A good walnut burger needs a solid crunch. The patty of John The Sandwich has a nice one, but only tastes crispy around the edges. Once we got to the middle, it was all mush. The summer veggie kimchi and sriracha veganaise certainly helped provide a spicy touch, but couldn’t save this one from being a little disappointing.
Pairs well with: by “Market Day” by John The Savage
The burgers are available until Friday, September 13. The WMSE Food Slam begins that night, 6-10 p.m, at the MSOE Grohmann Museum.